Friday, November 21, 2008

Rivalry Week

Just a few thoughts on tomorrow's big game.

Most of the experts are picking Utah (Just look at all the bowl predictions - a large majority have the Utes in a BCS bowl). They seem to be the easy choice. This makes me a little nervous. I think that BYU relishes and finds motivation from the fact that they are the underdog. I would almost prefer Utah being the underdog, but I don't think it really matters either way.

Utah and BYU always match up pretty evenly. This year will be no different. Here's my opinion on how the teams match up:

Quarterbacks - BYU:
I don't think that I would switch Johnson for Hall, but I admire Hall's consistency and accuracy. He has played solidly almost every game. Both quarterbacks have the ability to lead a game-winning drive at the end of a game. Johnson probably does this best.

Runningbacks - Utah:
Utah effectively uses two backs that would start on almost every team in the conference. Utah's yards per carry average is almost 1/2 yard. Another difference maker here is that Utah's 3rd and 4th string backs have the speed to get to the outside. They are often used on end-arounds and when the Utes want to get the ball outside the tackles.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends - BYU:
This is BYU's strongest position. Utah will give up a big pass play here and there, but they have pretty solid coverage overall. I don't see Collie destroying the Utes (because he will mainly be defended by Utah's speediest player). Pitta, if he's healthy, could probably walk all over Utah though. They just don't have anybody that can match up with him size-wise. The Utes will give up a couple of big plays to these guys, but hold them in check otherwise.

Offensive Line - Even:
Before the TCU game (for both teams) I would have given this one to BYU hands down. But, BYU gave up a bunch of sacks to TCU and Utah's line played its best game of the season against TCU. Jerry Hughes (one of the best defensive linemen in the country) was held in check all game by the Utes. The more time either Johnson or Hall has to make a play, the more the defense is going to pay for it.

Defensive Line - Utah:
This is one position where Utah really shines. You don't become a top-10 team against the run without a strong defensive line. For the first-half of the year, Paul Kruger led the nation in tackles for loss (and Koa Misi wasn't far behind). Jorgenson is good - but he would be playing behind either one of these guys.

Linebackers - Even:
I think it's hard to compare the linebacking ranks between the two teams because they both play different defensive schemes. The linebackers are more involved for BYU with their 3-4 scheme while they play a big part of Utah's run defense in Utah's 4-3 scheme.

Cornerbacks/Safeties - Utah:
Utah wins this one in a landslide. If they're smart, Johnson will try and test the corners early. Sean Smith has as many interceptions as the whole Cougar secondary. Every team that BYU has played from TCU on has tried to exploit BYU's secondary because they rarely match up with speed and athleticism. If Utah gets the long ball going it could be a long night for the Cougars (but don't worry, Johnson stinks at throwing the long ball).

Special Teams - Utah:
Utah leads the nation in touchbacks (and I realize that BYU is 3rd). Neither team has been very consistent on punt returns, but the real key here is All-American punter/kicker Louie Sakoda. Utah has the best kicking duo in the country.

Coaches - Even:
You won't convince me otherwise on this one. Bronco's an awesome coach with 3 more wins than Kyle. Kyle, has a better record against BCS schools while Bronco has conference championships. Both coaches are the top 2 first-job hires from 2005. This year, Kyle Whittingham wins coach-of-the-year.

I'm excited for the game. On paper the Utes win, but I only give them 3:2 odds of winning. I expect that the difference in the game will be Utah's speed on defense. TCU exploited BYU and almost every team since that game has been able to keep it close. If this wasn't a rivalry game these things would matter. As it is, I expect the game to be decided by less than 1 score - and possibly by whichever team has the ball as time expires.


JTENMAN said...

Man, I am getting excited/nervous already. This is why I don't play football anymore (well, that and I am way too small to be playing with these guys). Seriously though, this is the biggest game ever (that I have seen that is).

I think you make good points on all the areas, but I wanted to hear your thoughts on Unga and Vakapuna? How are the Utes going to handle them? The Utes seem to have problems with big backs. However, BYU underuses both of the backs so that is probably good for Utah.

Tyler said...

What BYU does well when they run the ball is to utilize Vakapuna as a lead blocker. This can open enormous holes for Unga. Neither back has really played the way that they did last year (and the year before for Fui). I think both have been hampered a bit by injuries. They'll get their yards, but expect very few breakout runs.

Clark said...

As usual, Tyler is much more sensible than most fans that spew rubbish on the internet.

My comments:
Quarterbacks: Thanks for validating my pick of Hall over Johnson. I've been battling this one out with a co-worker all week. Both have been impressive on game winning drives, but Johnson seems to have made a few more bonehead throws. (Or maybe he's just had more of his bonehead throws picked off, whereas Hall has luckily had them hit the turf when he goes into triple coverage.)

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: Couldn't you make this two separate categories so BYU can win them both?

Defensive Line: Jorgensen has not been as good this year as he was last year, but if all three of those guys you mentioned were on one team, I think most coaches would find a way to make sure they ALL started.

Coaches: I am, in general, disappointed in the way that BYU has a tendency to play the Utah game exactly the way they've played the other games. Utah on the other hand always seems to have a play or formation or something they've been keeping on the shelf all year waiting for BYU. It's the 12th game of the season and BYU doesn't always seem prepared for the fact that Utah has seen A LOT of tape.

Overall: Part of me wishes the game just didn't have to happen. The last two have taken years off my life. My pulse still quickens just thinking about the suspense of watching those games. This is why I don't watch scary movies! This series has seen only one blowout in the last decade, in 2004. This BYU team is much better than that BYU team, and the Utes aren't as good this year as they were in 2004. I see no reason why this one won't be just as ulcer-inducing as the last two.

Tyler said...

This may be a first, but I agree with your comments Clark...

When BYU won 2 years ago with no time on the clock, the air was sucked right out of Rice-Eccles Stadium. While there were still plenty of BYU fans cheering, the stadium felt silent and oxygen-deprived. If a loss can be incredible, that was one of the most incredible losses that I have experienced (i.e. witnessed). I'll die young if too many of these games end like that.

I want Utah to win, I hope they'll win but I won't be the least bit surprised if they don't.

Rummage said...

Good analysis Tyler. I agree with everything but the running backs. I think they are even if not advantage BYU.

Fui and Unga have more rushing and recieving yards than Mack and Asiata and they are tied in TDs. Plus Fui is a great blocker. Jtenman is probably right that they are underused, but Hall dumps a lot of passes off to them.

I think the key to the game is turnovers. BYU coughed it up 4 times against TCU. If they do that tomorrow, it will be a long game for the boys in blue.

Tyler Squire said...

Ok. Great game - game ball goes to... Max Hall (actually Kruger was the player of the game in my opinion).

I just want to make two changes to my earlier rundown. Quarterbacks goes to Utah and Runningbacks goes to BYU.

More on the game later! Go Utes!

JTENMAN said...

Here is my thought. If BYU runs the ball about 25 more times rather than throwing it, they win the game. Unga and Vakapuna slashed through our defense for almost 10 yards every time they got the ball. Not only that, but there would have been at least 2 less Hall interceptions if not more. Good thing that BYU had the wrong game plan (like I had said before the game). All the same, we kicked their butts! Awesome game!

Cory said...

Sorry I didn't post before the game, but i'd say it was a very thorough analysis.

Post-game: Utes Rock!! However, barring the 6 turnovers by Hall, it would have been a much closer game, probably another last second score would have been the decision. I'm glad (at least for my nerves) that it wasn't though.

Great game Utah!!